Sam Lowes has made an impressive start to the second round of the 2012 World Supersport Championship at Imola by pacing opening free practice by a comfortable margin.

The Briton, who is still searching for his first win as he embarks on his second season of full-time WSS racing, lapped the Italian venue in 1min 52.548secs, just over two tenths quicker than Kawasaki DeltaFin rider Sheridan Morais, the South African continuing to show good strides on the 600cc machine.

Equally noteworthy was Vladimir Leonov in third position on the Yakhnich Yamaha, the ex-Moto2 rider - whose team is spearheading World Superbikes' maiden foray into Russia this year - a little under a second off Lowes's pace.

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Phillip Island front runners Broc Parkes and Fabien Foret rounded out the top five, while Roberto Tamburini showed notable improvements on the new Lorini Honda with a run to the sixth best lap time.

Team Toth Honda pairing Balazs Nemeth and Imre Toth followed up next, ahead of Jules Cluzel and early series leader Kenan Sofuoglu, the Turk making a tentative start to the weekend having sustained a knee injury in testing at the same circuit recently.

Outside the top ten, Pawel Szkopek was 11th quickest, ahead of Massimo Roccoli - who is this weekend joined in the Bike Service WTR Ten 10 garage by Cristiano Erbacci -, Ronan Quarmby, Vittorio Iannuzzo and Andrea Antonelli.